• 19 July 2016

Up and down, up and down. Zambian roads are weary but the landscape awesome

Up and down, up and down. Zambian roads are weary but the landscape awesome

Up and down, up and down. Zambian roads are weary but the landscape awesome 300 169 Gürkan Genç


You can apply for visa at Zambian border which costs 50 USD. Border crossing is very easy. Only one officer at foreigners’ desk said: “Welcome”, checked my visa, gave permission for one month and showed the direction I have to go. All these didn’t take 4 minutes.  There were classical scenes at the border as usual. The trailer trucks were lined on both sides of the road. The road is good with a shoulder.

The first city ahead is Chipata, people recognizing me generally call: “How are you?” Even, the kids call me the same, unbelievable. I was used to kids first saying “How are you?” and afterwards asking for money. But along the road nobody asked for money.


Chipata was the biggest town I’ve seen for the last month. Electronics shops, pizza houses, hamburger shops. The first thing what caught my attention in the town were the Hindus pretty alike as in Tanzania. I went to an electronics shop the owners were Hindus. The head of the cashier was covered. They all looked at me with eyes wide open when I said: “Salamu Alaikum”. They got surprised a white man entering as such. After saying: “Alaikum Salam” she talked to her husband in their own language and then asked me how she could help?


The battery of my Trip 300 road computer which I was using since April 2015 ran out. The battery life of this device working with ANT was 10 months, not bad. This is the road computer which I prefer to use since then. I bought a new battery. We chatted in the mean time. They both were born in Zambia third generation Hindus.  In one of my previous articles I had mentioned that the British had brought people from India to this region to work at railway construction.  After the British withdrew from the region the hardworking Hindus stayed and are now well-off. I also met with fifth generation young Indus. I’d also met with fifth generation young Turks when I was in Germany.


I might be better to take a bus or car to Lusaka instead of riding on my damaged bicycle after this point.  I check the crack on the frame, it only moved half cm since I had wrapped the tube with a wrench in Tanzania. This 14/16 wrench is actually used to tighten the screw connecting the foot support to the frame. What I used this wrench for was to prevent the frame from a breakdown since 1600 km which I had formally used only once or twice a year. Similar equipments which I sometimes think I carry for nothing are being used for unexpected things in unexpected times. This makes me feel good.


I stayed for a couple of days in the town and then set off.  I have already mentioned and shared photos before that bicycle was used as a transport vehicle in the region. Sometimes cyclists follow me. From time to time we even race. They behave such as if saying “Hey this is our territory. Nobody can ride faster than us!” The conditions are somewhat equal. My bicycle is loaded, theirs aren’t. In return my bicycle has gears theirs haven’t. The people riding on these bicycles are using them as taxi or carry loads and therefore all in top performance. When I pass them they immediately start to follow me and ride with me. Many of them cannot cope with me due to my high pace, 88 pace for 25-30 km and give up after 5 km. But some are really good and keep up with me for kilometers. Some pass me but then get out of breath. If the slopes are long they cannot ride till the top anyway. They shout from behind. If we climb a short distance together at the top they say: “Your bicycle is strong.” I raced with so many youngsters, a real fun. They come to me on the road while I’m riding at a speed of 18 or 20 km/h and say: “Let’s race.” Then, they go nuts when I pass them with my loaded bicycle. Hahaha. Once, while I was riding through villages on dirt road a young man raced with me and also passed me up a hill. Hahaha. When we stopped for a short breath at the village I bought him a bottle of coca-cola. When I said to him that he was very strong he told me he has been carrying logs for years. He wasn’t carrying any logs at that time but those men are really born as cyclists. I’m sure if they had carbon fiber bicycles to enter official races they would achieve incredible records. He went to my bicycle to check the load and tried to lift but couldn’t. Then he turned looking at me his eyes wide open. Hahaha

A guy followed me again on the road but we came across on straight road even with a descent of %1 slope. It was too hard to get me caught with those bags on downhill. Some time past, I still heard the bike behind me. I checked my speed, 52 km/h. He was still behind me. I thought his bike is good so he can make this speed. I turned back and realized Gautier. Hahahaha..What are you doing behind me? He was smiling too. He had stopped for lunch and as the restaurant owner said your friend is passing just jumped back on his bike.



-Gurkan that guy behind you was trying so hard to pass you, when I also passed him he gave up.

After little laugh, we told each other where we went to and what we did in Malawi. He had bought a boat for 18 USD from a fisher at Malawi Lake. So he tried to travel with his boat for a while, I think he didn’t like it so much which was also dangerous to me. Then, he had embarked on one of the cruise boats on the lake. After that he had kept travelling on mountain roads. The day which I stayed at Gina’s house, I had sent the name and coordinates of the village to Gautier. He had spent one night at Gina’s house after I had left. We also had past the border gate on the same day. Now we have 5 days to ride. So we will arrive in Lusaka together.

During 5 days of our Zambia travel the average distance we covered was above 100 km. We also got used to climb 1000 m every day. The road was good and with almost no traffic we stayed in a good mood. We were chatting while riding.

One of our night stays was in a madrasa in Katete. Gautier told that it was the first time he stayed at a mosque with a theological school. Generally we had found a room with beds, dinner and warm shower for both of us in catholic churches. I had told him mosques with madrasa have similar features. The imam I’ve talked to said that the rooms were occupied but he could show us a place for our tents. He brought us tea and snacks to eat after we had put up our tents. They prepared dinner for us also.

The name of the imam was Abdulkerim a Hindu. He was the imam of this mosque for the last 4 years. He came from India for this job.  The expenses of this mosque were covered by Hindu descendent Zambians, the children of the Hindu families brought to work during the time when this region was under the control of British.

A 21 years old French traveler, a Hindu imam and me chatted about the distresses in the world and in our countries, about wars and so on. At a time we came to the subject freedom. They both were defending limitless freedom a person should have. But I was not of the same opinion.

My late professor Unsal Oskay comes in my mind. At a lesson talking about freedom he had said: “Individual’s freedom ends where the freedom of the other starts.” Then after we had learned the meanings of self-audit, self-control, ethics and related subjects I understood quite well that the individual’s freedom wasn’t limitless.

When I had started to write my road memories in 2010 I was writing impulsively, transferring my thoughts directly and also was using slang speech with occasional swear words. As time passed besides I realized how the road shaped me, I also started to use what I had learned during this educational process. The type of base of people following me had started to change! Not only my friends but also thousands of people had started to follow my story. I cannot write everything what I learn about. Sometimes the risk to violate the law of that country arises. I also can’t write what I have learned about the people. I have started to restrict my articles taking into account of different traditions and moral of people and of divine topics. In this way the young readers are not bothered and I respect foreign readers’ traditions and beliefs.

Now two people sitting in front of me are telling me that there should be no restrictions supporting with interesting examples. I told that I do not agree with them and after that I just kept listening to them.

In the following days, once we stayed at a well established catholic church in a quite deserted area. Polish nuns were working at the church. They told us that we can pitch our tents near the reception area of the hospital. Actually they had dorms but for the time being fully occupied. So we pitched our tents in the reception area. Buildings were just completed and new ones were being constructed on the back side. I saw thin notebooks on the shelves in reception area. I leafed through some of them. These notebooks on shelves were used to record the medical history of the local people cured in the hospital. They were very organized. Health issues, weight, height etc. of a person were carefully noticed in each notebook since there was no digital system on use.  We asked about health issues of the hospitalized people. This week 45 patients were hospitalized with malaria diagnosis. Polish nuns had gotten malaria when they first came, but then recovered. There are another diseases spread by mosquito bites in the area which are yellow fever and black fever. There are vaccines against yellow fever but unfortunately there isn’t any medicine or vaccine against black fever. Like I said before if you got bitten by a mosquito you just say ‘fuck’ wondering whether it was infected by the virus or not. In one or two days the symptoms of disease shows up.        

Well, what are the symptoms of the disease then? Arthralgia, dude I already have aches at my joints. Nasal flow, this is also happening to me for years when on bike. Since we generally have front wind we have nasal flow. Even in one of my articles I wrote that I learned how to blow my nose. Increase in body temperature, well our pulse is already at or above 150. Feeling chilly during sleep happens from time to time when I don’t lay my sleeping bag over me. Furthermore, while riding on bike the body burns and sweats out all with this high pulse and sudation. I’m traveling on bike since 6 years and I got poisoned only once in Algeria from water, that’s all. I still travel in Africa, let’s see whether I get infected by this disease?

I’ve mentioned in my Kenya article before that there aren’t any horses in the region. Horse was an indication of wealth is this region. But this still didn’t explain the reason why there weren’t any horses in this region. Horse is one of the domestic animals seen everywhere in the world especially in the rural areas of developing countries used as farm animal. There aren’t any horses in Sub-Saharan geography. I’ve not seen any after Ethiopia. I read about the reason in one of the books related to Africa: The tsetse fly.

A fly somewhat looking like a black fly causing human sleeping sickness resulting to death a disease also called as nagana.

I saw this fly many times when going for toilet in the field. Even once I told Esra who were pedaling with me in Tanzania “Esra, I saw a fly not like what I have seen before. That fly was this fly, tsetse. Pooping outdoor in this region is too dangerous. One night I went for toilet, I sprayed mosquito repellent all over but a mosquito bit my butt while I was pooping. It might bite also during day light. There are no vaccines developed against this mosquito. There are more than 50 million people in danger because of presence of this mosquito in this region. Diagnosis of the disease is very difficult and treatment very expensive. This kind of mosquito prevents animal based agriculture in rural area. Horses are influenced at most. The main difference between this mosquito and the others is the presence of lactation in tsetse flies. People who travel through rural areas in Africa should be aware of the danger caused by this fly. Especially people who have injuries should take precautions and cover open injuries. Number of mosquitoes has increased in recent years with decreasing amount of agricultural fields.        

Before arriving in Lusaka Evren, one of the Turks living in the town, sent me a message right after I shared this on my web page: “Abi (elderly brother in Turkish) we are waiting for you” Well, my bicycle has cracks on the main frame. The time when the cargo will arrive in Lusaka is unknown. I don’t want to bother the people since I don’t know how long I’ll need to stay. I mentioned them about this: “I may have to stay one or even two weeks. I don’t want to bother you.” “We have a large house. It is up to you either you stay at home or camp somewhere else.” : ). Upon this I sent a message “Alright I’m coming.”

Since Gautier had planned to stay only one night in Lusaka he decided to stay at a Belgian’s home he found through couchsurfing. He had been messaging for some time with couchsurfing hosts in Lusaka. After a couple of bed experiences I never contacted people over couchsurfing. There is only one association I’ll apply to, warmshowers. Gautier was also at the same opinion with me but there weren’t any warmshowers hosts in this region.

Only half of a cm is left for the crack to complete a circle on the upper tube of the bicycle frame. Nevertheless, this bicycle managed to arrive at Turkish embassy. After parking my bicycle in the garage of the embassy Evren and Erman who will host me in Lasaka came over to take me.

Erman and Evren are relatives. Erman is one of the first Turks in Zambia. Yeliz, Evren’s wife sent them a message from Turkey: “Such and such a man is coming to Lasaka. If you are available host him.” Since Erman’s wife Makbule was in Turkey to give birth to their child they were available.

They had come to this country 7 years ago and started to work in construction industry. After a while they had established their own business. They were building single family houses and selling building materials. I asked them whether they were satisfied and their answer was yes. Erman says that people in Turkey don’t greet each other anymore on the streets and everyone is afraid of each other. Just walk on the streets of Lusaka you’ll see both locals and foreigners greet you.

Of course there are theft and grab in this country as everywhere. It is dangerous to walk on streets at night both for locals and also foreigners. An employee after working for you for 10 years can steal things from you. There many stories of theft done by the house keeper etc. A couple of days ago Erman and Evren realized that the electrician working for their company was stealing goods from their construction area.

Zambia has a huge market potential. Our embassy has a commerce attaché. Especially, there aren’t any ad agencies to run advertisement campaigns, of course for the time being. I beg there will be some in the close future.

There isn’t any water scarcity in this country. Drilling for 50 m you find everywhere water in this country. You harvest in the shortest time what you plant. The produce you harvest is of good quality and taste. This is true for city center and outside the city.

I keep waiting for my new bicycle to arrive in Lusaka. Black thunder is waiting for the time to return to Turkey. When the new bicycle arrives I’ll write an article about what has changed and what was renewed on the bike.

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